I heard an awful racket outside this morning and dismissed it as the neighbors moving in next door. Then, I saw my cat at the back left area of the screened in porch on alert; tail-wagging, ready for something to appear, as the clawing sounds continued. They stopped as I got close, so I stood and listened, and soon there were the sounds of tiny nails scratching down metal. I ran upstairs and told my husband I thought there was a squirrel caught in the downspout, so he came out and disconnected the bottom rubber portion of the drain, and there he was.
We both thought we saw him move a bit with the movement of the pipe. He had one eye open, but I didn’t see any breathing, he just laid there frozen. I told my husband I hoped we got to him in time. We didn’t want to traumatize him if he was alive, or get bit, so we left, and let nature take its course.
I wondered about him all morning. I checked on this cutie about an hour after finding him, and he’s still lying in there.
Then, I thought… was he stunned and scared. He was still thinking he was stuck, and wasn’t yet strong enough to back out and free himself because of all the struggling. I doubted this fierce little guy would have resigned himself to dying in there.
And, it got me thinking about how I handle my own panic. I too, hunker down and go small when I’m scared or when I’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time fighting. It’s necessary for us C/PTSD sufferers to regroup, catch our breath, and assess the situation before re-emerging back into our habitat when life throws us for a loop.
But, it’s equally important not to resign ourselves to labels, or detach so much we don’t even try, and just give up because that’s what’s expected of C/PTSD’ers.
I call bullshit. We can do everything and everything we want in life. We just gotta rest when we need, strive when called for, and have an awareness of ourselves at all times.
Some days, yes, I’m hunkered down and quiet, like this scared little squirrel, trying to find my center. I’m recuperating and trying to trust the Universe again.
But, some days, nervous or not, there’s absolutely no time for that smallness — only time for doing — and you can hear my nails scratching down the slick metal tube that is life, trying everything in my power not to die, fail, lose, resign, or give up.
Both are survival modes, I know.
Squirrel mode or my frozen state is quieter than my other mode and may look like dying or giving up to those on the outside. This mode occurs more in my head, and is purposeful. —It’s here where I tell myself to, “Just breathe”, “Everything is o.k.” “Don’t be scared.” “Not now.” In this mode, it’s just me and my BFF and we don’t do much but chatter back and forth. I stay small. In this mode I’ve even realized that I shallow breathe and have to remind myself to stop and take a few deep breaths. I do a lot of piddling around the house, crafting, art journaling, painting, cooking and wearing pajamas in this mode. And, all that is super awesome to my quiet, inner-dying and hunkering down, squirrel self. I come out of this mode much quicker lately. I tended to dwell here while writing my book, Steel Town Girl. But, I re-emerge stronger, and faster now, all by listening to my body’s messages of what it needs from me, the operator.
My other mode is more expressive and loud. We’ll call this mode: Tiger Mode. This mode occurs in my heart, and makes me fight like a caged, wild animal trying to get myself free because “something” tells me to stand up this instant and stop this shit right now!
In this mode, I don’t allow anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or any other C/P.T.S.D. symptom to have control. In this mode, I barrel through. I challenge myself to go further and do more. Less feeling. More doing. I hold my head up, stand in my courage, speak while my voice cracks, and acknowledge I can still feel fear and anxiety, while feeling courageous and getting shit done. The fear can remain if it chooses to, but I move on with or without it. I keep pushing now, knowing that rest is my reward later.
I show up because I am stronger than fear.
I call holding both modes at once my even-steven mode. For me, it’s equivalent to driving a stick. Too much gas and you’ll jerk yourself violently and chirp your wheels. Too much clutch and you’re going to bog down and stall your engine until you finally sputter and come to a complete stop.
Even-steven mode is a place where I am able to have an eagle’s-eye view of myself and can see clearly what I’m doing, and how I’m being. In this mode, the eagle doesn’t let me go to far left or right of center. No wallowing, spiraling out of control, or using excuses, on the left. And on the right, no out of control busyness, doing or striving that takes me too far out of myself.
Midline is where it’s at: Not too much IN your business, not too much OUT of your business.
Both modes: Squirrel and Tiger are absolutely necessary for our survival, and both are completely normal. One mode is comfortable, and one is not. Even-steven mode is both modes at the same time, and is the Goldilocks of where I’ve tried to live my life. You can get there too. Just follow the inner Eagle. The inner eagle to me, is meditation. Come up out of you long enough to see.
I was curious as to whether our squirrel friend was hunkered down and scared, or had just resigned himself die, so I ran outside to see. — Turns out, he could be both modes at once too! He rested, surveyed his habitat for danger, then, when it was safe, he high-tailed it outta there! I’d like to think he’s now comfy and cozy in his tree nest with his squirrel family hunkered down and resting his inner tiger for his next big adventure.
And that’s what managing my C/PTSD feels like for me: Resigning and dying one day, and/or fighting and lurching forward with the ferociousness of a tiger the next. Sometimes being both in one day.
And get this: When my husband came home a few hours later, I yelled down the steps that the squirrel was free! He yelled, “Yay!” and said he’d be outside reconnecting the rubber drain to the steely downspout. A few minutes later he texted me this picture as I sat writing this post:
He texted me: “I’m glad the squirrel got out. There was a little frog down in there too!”
The squirrel was on top of the trapped frog!
Nature has a lot to say about living if we just listen. Today’s message: If you save yourself, you may just help save a friend.